Album review: Mary Chapin Carpenter. Ashes & Roses

Decca £12.99**

Mary Chapin Carpenter

Ashes & Roses

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Decca £12.99

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This album is powerfully coloured by personal tragedy: a serious illness, a divorce and the aftershock of the death of Carpenter’s father. All the country boxes are emphatically ticked then. The grief is relentless; Carpenter’s mournful tones achingly wrapped round every syllable.

Soul Companion is a relatively uptempo variation on the theme, but the prevailing feeling is that of being privy to a deeply personal wake, devoid of any of those Grammy-winning moments that have decorated a multi-million-selling career.

The titles say it all: What To Keep And What To Throw Away, Chasing What’s Already Gone and the irony of Don’t Need Much To Be Happy. It’s all beautifully assembled and preciously performed; making this record has clearly been a hugely cathartic experience.

Listening to it is much more awkward, however, offering little or no redemption to the casual observer or the most attentive student of her oeuvre.

Returning to her coffee house roots may have been a comfort, but the limited instrumentation of piano and guitar leaves little room for manoeuvre.

Tragic personal circumstances are often the spark for the muse, but sadly not in this instance.

Listening is more of a chore than a pleasure, hopefully a balance that can be redressed next time out.

Colin Somerville

Download this: Soul Companion